Tentative Agreement Reached on 3 of 5 TEACH Grant Regulatory Proposals

Teacher Preparation Negotiated Rulemaking continued with a second round of negotiations this week. Proposed changes to the Teacher Education Assistance for Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program led the session agenda. Tentative agreement was reached on proposed changes to three out of the five TEACH Grant issues raised by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

High-Need Field – Fulfilling Agreement to Serve: 

In a statutory change implemented on July 1, 2010, the requirement that a TEACH Grant recipient serve in a high-need field was expanded to accommodate changes to the list of high-need fields. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) was amended to allow a TEACH Grant recipient to qualify for the service requirement so long as they are teaching in a field that was at least designated high-need at the time the recipient applied for the grant or begins qualifying teaching service, even if the field is subsequently no longer designated as high-need. ED has already implemented the statutory requirement by publishing guidance in GEN-09-10 and including it in the Agreement to Serve, but the regulations are not yet updated to reflect the change.

ED proposed new regulatory language attempting to reflect this change; however, several negotiators took issue with ED’s proposal. The statutory language indicates individuals qualify as long as they are teaching in a field that was designated high-need at the time the student applies for the grant, rather than when the student receives the grant, as ED’s regulatory proposal stipulates. Because a fair amount of time can pass between the time a student applies for and subsequently receives a grant, it is conceivable for the high-need fields to change even during that period.

ED will revisit the issue and propose changes to the draft language for discussion when the committee reconvenes in April.

Educational Service Agencies – Service and Repayment: 

The Higher Education Act was amended in 2008 to include educational service agencies (ESAs) as meeting the same teaching service requirements as a school serving low-income students (low-income school), defined in section 686.2(d) of the TEACH Grant Program regulations. Although ED has already implemented the statutory requirement to include ESAs for this purpose, ED has not yet updated the regulations to reflect the change.

During this rulemaking session, ED proposed draft regulatory language including a definition of an Educational Service Agency and considering an ESA as a school serving low-income students (low-income school) for purposes of meeting the TEACH Grant service agreement.

Negotiators reached tentative agreement on the proposed changes.

Total and Permanent Disability – Discharge of Agreement to Serve: 

ED proposed new regulatory language to conform the TEACH Grant Program regulations to changes already made to the Direct Loan Program regulations and put into practice by the higher education community. Instead of receiving a three-year conditional discharge, TEACH Grant recipients would receive an immediate discharge, with possible reinstatement of the obligation to repay or serve under certain circumstances. These circumstances include earning an annual income in excess of 100 percent of the federal poverty guideline for a family of two or receiving a new TEACH Grant or certain types of federal student aid.

Nonfederal negotiators expressed concern about the concept of monitoring an individual’s income for discharge purposes. ED countered that it doesn't expect disabled individuals earning above the poverty line to be in compliance with generally-accepted disability principles, and therefore income monitoring is necessary.

Tentative agreement among the negotiators was reached on this issue.

Total and Permanent Disability – Impact on Eligibility for New Grant: 

There are currently no regulatory provisions to address circumstances where an individual has recovered from a disability which led to their discharge from a prior TEACH Grant agreement, and seeks a new TEACH Grant. Other federal student aid programs contain regulatory procedures for similar types of situations. As such, ED put forth draft regulations consistent with those governing the Direct Loan and Federal Perkins Loan programs.

Tentative agreement was reached on this issue.

High-Quality Teacher Preparation Program: 

Discussion continued without consensus from the earlier round of negotiations on the proposed definition of a high-quality teacher preparation program and precisely which measures might be used to make that determination.

This discussion will continue when the committee reconvenes for the third round of negotiations April 3-5, 2012.